Boost for Suffolk broadband bid

Suffolk is to get a �10m broadband boost after the county council agreed to put up the money to help bring 21st century communications to the whole county.

A meeting of the council's cabinet yesterday voted unanimously to make the money available over the next four years.

If the next bid for government funding is successful, the county is likely to join neighbours Norfolk in a search for private sector partners to wire up the entire region.

Council leader Mark Bee called the special meeting of the cabinet – which was attended by five Suffolk MPs, business leaders, and leaders of district and borough councils across the county – following last month's rejection by the government's Broadband Delivery UK group of a �20m bid for funding. Now the county and other councils from Suffolk have agreed to put up �10m and are hoping BDUK will match it.

Mr Bee said: 'I am delighted that the bid got this backing. It shows how serious we are about getting top-quality broadband throughout the county...' Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said: 'It is absolutely vital that Suffolk gets broadband. If Suffolk does not do something now there is a real danger we would be left behind – and that would be a disaster for the whole county.'

He said the county's MPs would be able to take the result of the meeting back to ministers in the bid to get government backing.

Andy Wood, chair of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Chief Executive of Adnams, said: 'If we are successful then the probability is that we would put our money together with that from Norfolk and look for partners who would bring broadband to both counties.'

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Some councillors were concerned about the money being pledged to the project.

Cabinet member Guy McGregor warned it could mean other projects might lose out – although he did vote in favour.

Halesworth councillor Tony Goldson said he could have difficulty in explaining why the council was spending so much on broadband to elderly voters who were not interested in new technology but were concerned about social care budgets.

However, deputy council leader Jane Storey said the money for the broadband would come out of the council's reserves and should not affect other services.

Last month, it emerged that the government had agreed to match, pound for pound, the �15m Norfolk County Council is looking to invest in better broadband.

Norfolk's application for the cash was supported by the Back the Bid campaign, run in conjunction with the EDP.

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